Claro Energy (Claro) was founded in 2010 by two graduates of Kellogg School of Management who were motivated to create a venture of lasting significance.
Claro Energy offers solar-powered water pumping solutions to meet irrigation water and drinking water needs of rural population in power-deficit regions in India, like Bihar, by sourcing proven, reliable and high quality solar PV technologies.
In combination with sales, marketing and business development competencies, Claro Energy has also developed in-house integration and implementation expertise in remote rural regions of India.
Claro Energy’s solar powered irrigation pumps are cheaper, longer lasting and more reliable than diesel powered irrigation pumps.
At present, Claro Energy’s sells to the public sector; as solar powering of irrigation pumps has a strong economic rationale compared to high cost of providing last mile electricity connection to villagers and savings from agriculture power subsidy. In addition, power to the rural population is made available today versus in the future.
The company is also beginning to sell into the private sector using innovative financing methods.
Image courtesy: Claro Energy
The off-grid solar power irrigation solution
Claro energy produces a customized solar irrigation pump based on local groundwater table, solar insolation and irrigation water discharge conditions. The optimal solution is low cost and robust as it is appropriately integrated and sized.
Optimal design and engineering of an off-grid solar PV irrigation pump requires understanding of solar PV modules, centrifugal AC/DC pump and motor operation, and knowledge of middleware (inverters, variable frequency drives and MPPT).
Claro Energy has developed system integration expertise between solar modules and centrifugal pumps that is enabled through a power electronics middleware.
Claro Energy believes that the state of Bihar combines three fundamental factors that will drive the long-term adoption of solar irrigation pumps. First, Bihar is primarily an agrarian based economy, with 1/3rd of its GDP coming from agriculture. Second, there is severe shortage and non-availability of grid power in the region, which necessitates the need for expensive diesel operated pumps. Third, low water tables in Bihar and high solar insolation allows solar system sizes to be smaller that in turn reduce total costs and also increase engineering reliability.
Educating the government and creating market awareness on feasibility of solar power to run agriculture pumps was a big challenge for Claro to overcome. Claro demonstrated a 7.5 HP pump to run on solar power. Till today, it is the largest solar operated pump in Bihar. Such successes in solar energy in Bihar led Claro Energy to become one of the trusted advisors to the state government. In one such instance, Claro Energy represented Govt. of Bihar in discussions with World Bank.
Creating an enthusiastic and motivated execution team in Bihar is an ongoing challenge. Today with a total on the ground team of 15, Claro Energy is able to rapidly deploy and service its pump installations, and engage in brand building and business development efforts in Bihar. Claro Energy’s ability to put together a good management and motivated operational team is a decisive factor in its success.
Setting up a robust supply chain for rural areas is a tough challenge and gives Claro Energy an advantage over many others. From material procurement at low costs to mechanical structure fabrication close to point of installation, Claro Energy has attained a higher level of operational effectiveness.
Image courtesy: Claro Energy
Social & Environmental Impact
By January of 2012, Claro Energy has installed nearly 20 pumps totaling about 50 HP. Today nearly 10 villages depend on solar irrigation pumps installed by Claro Energy. The pumps irrigate a total land area of over 300 acres and impact the daily lives of 1000 rural farmers.
Since 40% of farmers in Bihar have a land holding of less than 2 acres, agriculture productivity from existing land is doubled by daily availability of reliable irrigation water (World Institute of Sustainable Energy, Pune). Further, crops can be grown during summer and precision farming techniques such as greenhouse agriculture and micro-irrigation can now be practiced.
Famers are becoming more water-efficient, as they have reliable daily water supply and they therefore don’t need to flood their fields whenever they get water.
In addition to improving the economic conditions of rural farmers, distributed solar power infrastructure development will also generate local employment and prevent mass migration of villagers to urban areas.
Solar powered irrigation pump-sets prevent air pollution due to diesel combustion and emissions of greenhouse gases.
By having irrigation during the daytime, farmers are prevented from the drudgery of irrigation in the night, which led to exposure to other random risks such as snake bites or tripping in the dark.
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